Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sermon: Trinity Sunday

My walk this day with God,
My walk this day with Christ,
My walk this day with Spirit.
Ho! Ho! Ho! The three-fold all-kindly.

My shielding this day from ill,
My shielding this night from harm
Ho! Ho! Both my soul and my body,
Be by Father, by Son, by Holy Spirit:
By Father, by Son, by Holy Spirit…[Amen.]
This journey prayer that originates from the islands off of Scotland, reminds us how our ancestors relied on God, in very intimate ways, in their daily lives. As their journeys took them out into the fields, tending to their animals, their prayers reminded them of the companionship of God. As they prayed & walked, God walked with them, and shielded them. This confidence that God, God the father, Son and Holy Spirit was with them at every turn, helped guide their lives. Even as they washed their faces, many prayed:
The palmful of the God of Life
The palmful of the Christ of Love
The palmful of the Spirit of Peace
Triune of grace.
Simple acts and yet a profound connection to God. Something I dare say we all long to have in our lives.

As I was reading the latest alumni magazine from my alma matter, the University of Michigan, I found an article on my favorite professor who has just retired after 39 years at UM. Professor Ralph Williams taught in the English Department, and I first came to his class, the Bible as Literature in my sophomore year. It was an extraordinary class. He made the Bible for me, come alive. The stories were no longer just in the text but the stories and the issues came alive with his passion and his energetic style, and their interacted with my own life. I credit him for helping me with my faith, for putting wonder back into the bible, and a renewed connection to God. He opened our eyes to see God with us.

It is all about our connection to God. Be in simple daily prayers reminding us we walk with God or a professor that helps us see our faith stories in a new light, who helps us with our connection to God. Dame Julian of Norwich was a renowned 14th-century English mystic. In perhaps her most famous prayer, she had a vision in which she found herself holding a hazelnut.
"It was as round and perfect as a ball," Julian wrote, "I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing."

Julian then heard a voice explain:

"[This simple hazelnut] is everything that is made . . . It lasts and always will, because God loves it; everything has being through the love of God." In that hazelnut, Dame Julian was holding all creation in her hand.

Look at it, the voice said, and realize three things: "God made it, God loves it, God preserves it."

The voice continued:

"Do you wish to know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end."

Dame Julian never said so, but one can guess that she never looked at as much as a peppercorn the same way again. How could she, once God has shown her the whole world in the palm of her hand? Paying attention to it, she learned how God paid attention to her. Holding it, she learned how God held her.
[From An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor.]

No matter how God calls to us, reveals God’s self to us, it is God who wants to be in relationship with us. That is the meaning of the Trinity, it is an attempt to describe our experience of God, Three in One, to be in relationship with Father and Son and Holy Spirit. It is to seek out God. As one theologian put it: “In the trinity God is one, good, true, and beautiful because God is essentially Love…” (Hans Urs von Balthasar)

As we leave today, let us remind ourselves that our triune God is present with us in our lives and who wants us to seek him out in love. And there is no better way, than in prayer, so let us end with how we began, with another prayer from the coast of Scotland, summing up our hope to have God always near us in all we do:
God to enfold me, God to surround me,
God in my speaking, God in my thinking.
God in my sleeping, God in my waking,
God in my watching, God in my hoping.
God in my life, God in my lips,
God in my soul, God in my heart.
God in my sufficing, God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul, God in mine eternity. Amen.

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